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July 22 & 25: from Beirut - France - Siberia - Mumbai

Yaks and thugs and 160 flat tires; the cyclist who pedalled halfway around the world to take on his own fears.

From the can't-win-for-losing department;: musicians in Lebanon win acclaim for singing in Arabic. Then lose it, for singing in Arabic. 

Why France takes the cake. Insights into a country that views pastry as culture, and how chefs become kings.

And from Mumbai, why Mary Colaso can't go home. The elderly of India are being moved out, not in.

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An encore edition of Dispatches in the summer.


Cycling home from Siberia

Rob Lilwall "riding" through the frozen mud of Siberia. (Photo/Alastair Humphreys)

On the surface, Rob Lilwall doesn't seem like a daredevil.

He's a pleasant English fellow from a good home in west London.

Hardly the guy you'd expect to fly to Siberia and spend the next four years bicycling back; a distance of nearly 50,000 km.

But he did.

Slogging through snowbanks. Sharing sleeping quarters with yaks.

Chased by thugs in Papua New Guinea. And he remains delightfully unaffected by the experience.

It's all in his new book, Cycling Home from Siberia, published by Hodder and Stoughton.

And like all journeys, it began in his head.

Rick interviews Rob...

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Rob Lilwall spoke to Rick from our London studio.

Rob reads an excerpt: from Cycling Home from Siberia....

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Beirut's musical mash-up

 Pop music is fickle. Fickle, fickle, fickle.

Ask Tiffany. Ask Dylan. Or, ask Yasmine Hamdan,  because it's the same where she's from, in Lebanon.

Yasmine won praise from her fans for singing in Arabic, back when French and English were the cultural notm. But now that she's taking it to the international level, they're turning on her.

Seems the culture wars are alive and well and playing festivals in Lebanon, as we hear from Don Duncan.

Don's documentary....

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The art of the craft

After listening to the next two guests, you may never eat french pastry quite the same way again.

In France, as with most foods, creating great pastry is an art. But it's also a nerve-shredding competition among chefs, culminating in the creation of massive centrepieces of delicate spun sugar and other delights.

After months of practice, contestants spend three shattering days getting eyeballed by judges and vying for the prestigious title of MOF -- Meilleurs Ouvriers de France -- Best Craftsman in France.

The prize is just a bit of red, white, and blue worn round the neck.

But the sense of accomplishment?

Priceless.  And intense, as we hear in this clip from the documentary Kings of Pastry, which follows three chefs competing in the competition. 

Kings of Pastry clip...

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The idea that someone in Europe puts manual labor on par with intellectual achievement intruigued producer Flora Lazar and director Chris Hegedus.

They joined Rick from our New York studio to talk about Kings of Pastry.

Chris and Flora talk to Rick...

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Watch the theatrical trailer for Kings of Pastry....

A home, but not at home

In Mumbai, there's an elderly woman who'd like to live out her life in the home of her children and grandchildren. After all, that's been the custom since forever.

But she can't. And there are lots like her. 

Never mind tradition. The mobility of modern society is changing this ancient culture. We're used to it in the west.  But it takes some getting used to in India.

There's nothing like a home. But for many, it isn't going to be the one they expected, as we hear from Canadian journalist Saira Syed, at the forefront of that change.

Saira's story...

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This program is the work of producers Dawna Dingwall, Alison Masemann abd Steve McNally, with technical producers Tim Lorimer and Victor Johnston, wenior producer Alan Guettel and Rick MacInnes-Rae.

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